Jason Todd tackles his personal demons in the newest issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws
Calling all Batfans; this new issue of Red Hood is amazing. I haven’t seen a more
emotional back story on Jason Todd since ‘Death in the Family’. This is no ordinary
retcon, this is an expansion that highlights the checkered past of Jason and propels a
classic Batman character forward into unknown.
When we last left the Outlaws they were dealing with the loss of their beloved teammate
Bizarro, as he descended from Kryptonian genius into his classic, monosyllabic character.
This issue breaks away from the previous story arc and focuses solely on Jason Todd
coming to terms with his childhood as he reads a series of lost letters from his father,
Willis Todd. This adds new dimensions to the character’s origin story, using a classic
flashback storyline, leading to a bigger mystery in the present day.
Those of you who are unfamiliar with the character; Jason Todd was the second Robin,
after Dick Grayson left the side of Batman. His origin was almost identical to Dick
Grayson, as his parents were circus performers killed by one of Batman’s foes. But after
‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ his origin was retconned into a teenaged street tough, found in
an orphanage by Bruce Wayne. Jason Todd was given the mantle of Robin, not because
Batman wanted to save him out of guilt, like Dick Grayson, but he knew that Jason was
likely to become a villain if not given a better chance at life. Through Jason Todd’s
Robin, DC comics was able to tackle issues like teenaged gang violence and drug
addiction, attempting to bolster a moral code in the audience they helped foster.
However, Jason Todd was never as popular as Dick Grayson, which led to the infamous,
national poll, where DC comics asked their readers if they should kill or keep Jason as
Ultimately, the fans decided to retire Jason Todd, and DC complied, creating one
of the biggest scandals in comic book history. DC didn’t just write out Jason Todd, they
had the Joker beat him to half-to-death with a crowbar, then left in a puddle of blood next
to a time bomb, which went off moments before Batman could save him. This left comic
book readers stunned, and caused a major backlash from fans and parents over the
violent, comic code approved, death of Jason Todd. Tim Drake was soon introduced as
the new Robin a year later, but the damage was done.
It was not until 2005 that Jason Todd was resurrected as the new Red Hood, a dramatic
unmasking and successful rebranding that is still running strong today. His contentious
relationship with Batman, his vengeful streak against criminals, and his role as the black
sheep of the Batfamily, has kept Jason Todd fresh and iconic across many story-arcs.
From the Arkham game series to the honorable mentions in the ‘Batman verses
Superman’ film, Jason Todd has cemented himself as a major Batman character.
DC’s biggest scandals became one of it’s best gun-toting antiheroes. Even with all this
history, the recent issue of ‘Red Hood and the Outlaws’ is one of the first forays into
Jason’s back story since ‘Death in the Family’. The figure of his father, Willis Todd, has
always remained a mystery. Until now.
Through a series of handwritten letters, Willis Todd speaks to his son about his checkered
past. He was a drug dealer in Gotham, a new father struggling to pay the bills, who was
then forced to pick up henchman jobs under criminal classics like Two Face and Mister
Freeze. Willis Todd has even fought the Batman, sporting a bat-shaped brand from his
past criminal exploits. In his final letter to Jason, Willis Todd explains that his prison
sentence has been commuted, but only if he submits himself to be a scientific guinea pig
to a shady, unnamed organization. This rings major alarm bells for all Batfans, world-
A classic set-up is being put on the table, and the last panel of Red Hood #23 is too
good to spoil. The Red Hood is not rehashing old material. This title is going places.